Author Spotlight: Heather Petty
We are thrilled to feature YA author Heather Petty, whose highly anticipated novel LOCK & MORI is debuting on September 15. Be sure to enter her giveaway of a free copy!
Tell us about your background and how you came to writing. When did you start writing?
I was always a huge reader, but I never thought about becoming a writer until my high school English teacher, Author Terri Farley (Phantom Stallion series) read an assignment I'd turned in and basically told me I needed to be writing. So, I joined the school paper. Then, in college, when I was kind of over the Journalism thing, I applied for a fiction writing class with Author Susan Palwick, who later taught me one-on-one. She really helped me find my niche as a kidlit writer.
I joined SCBWI shortly after I graduated, and my very first critique (of a really horrible middle grade book) at a conference was from Ellen Hopkins, whose debut novel CRANK was coming out later that year (2004). (Crazy, right?) She was very patient with my rookie writer ways and encouraged me to keep going. But I had a baby the next year and floundered for a bit with my writing until Author Cynthia Cotten read one of my silly LiveJournal posts one night and told me I should be writing YA. She pointed me in the direction of authors like Melissa Marr, Charles de Lint, and Holly Black. I was especially taken by Holly Black's TITHE series, and started writing my own YA within days of reading VALIANT.
Tell us about LOCK & MORI. What inspired it?
I read an article on nemesis relationships, where the writer mentioned offhand that everything we know about Moriarty is what Sherlock tells us, as he's the only one who meets Moriarty in the canon. That, to me, was a super delicious gap int he story that was begging to be filled.
Pretty much any time I can ask the question "What if?" I get super excited. In this instance, I thought, what if Sherlock lied to Watson for some reason? What if he'd known Moriarty since they were kids? What if something that happened when they were kids is why they're rivals as adults? The story kind of spiraled out from there.
Was your path to publication short and fortuitous, long and arduous, or something else?
It was long and fortuitous. I got my first agent in 2009 with an Urban Fantasy novel about faeries at summer camp, but the market was already shifting away from Paranormal/Urban Fantasy and toward Dystopian at the time, and I had zero interest in writing Dystopian. So I wrote a lot of paranormal and urban fantasy that had no chance of selling, but still taught me a lot about crafting novels.
And right before my second agent decided to retire from the business, I came up with this idea about a female Moriarty meeting Sherlock Holmes in high school. It took me a while to write it, but I finished the book and found my current agent, Laurie McLean, who sold the book in fall of 2013.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Whatever part I’m doing right now. I always think I love drafting best when I’m revising and revising best when I’m drafting.
What is the easiest part?
Whatever comes after the part I’m doing now.
What's the best writing advice you've been given? What would you tell an aspiring author?
Best Advice: Ira Glass’ piece on Storytelling, which can be seen in four parts on the PRI YouTube channel, is all amazing, but this one section of Part 3 is probably the best advice for artists that I’ve ever heard: https://vimeo.com/24715531.
The best advice I’ve ever personally received came from my dad when I was really young and told him I wanted to be a singer when I grew up. He told me that I could do anything I wanted to do, as long as I was willing to do the work. And I think the words “do the work” become a mantra of sorts for me when I want something and it’s not quite coming together.
My Advice: Nothing is sacred and everything is sacred—meaning we have to learn how to recognize our strengths and inadequacies as writers, to not be afraid to stand up for the parts of our work that we know are brilliant and to not be too attached to cut out those parts that aren’t working. It’s a learning process, just as Ira Glass said in his piece.
You have to learn how to trust and doubt yourself in just the right doses to put out your best work. And the only way you learn that is to write as much as you can and put your work out into the hands of people you trust to help you make it better.
What is one thing that most people don't know about you?
I’m a total sucker for a cleverly romantic sonnet.
Where can we find you online?
My website: heatherwpetty.com
Heather Petty has been obsessed with mysteries since she was twelve, which is when she decided that stories about murders in London drawing rooms and English seaside villages were far superior to all other stories. LOCK & MORI is her first novel. She lives in Reno, Nevada with her husband, daughter, and four hopelessly devious cats. You can visit her online at heatherwpetty.com.